Design, career, challenge, creativity, design, ideas
Mon, 28 Jul 2014 05:00:21 +0000
I’ve been a designer for almost my entire life, dating back to 28 years ago this coming weekend, when I made my first logo in a kitchen in eastern Ohio. For the better part of my career, I wrestled with one crippling fear – that one day, I would run out of ideas. Afraid that the well would run dry, and I would no longer be able to rise to the challenge of creating new stuff. Over recent years, I’ve decided to confront this fear instead of living with it. What I’ve come to realize is as liberating as the act of creating itself. This year, legendary designer Massimo Vignelli passed away at the age of 83. He worked in the creative realm right up to his passing. The idea that one can spend a lifetime of not just developing new ideas – but awe-inspiring ones – gave me a welcome reality check. We’re talking about the person responsible for the vision behind the New York Subway system (and all others designed after it), the brand for American Airlines (only recently changed after an unprecedented run of 47 years), and tons of other brands that will be forever ingrained in our collective consciousness. Vignelli taught us all through his life that we don’t have any need to worry about there being a finite amount of creativity to draw from. I also took some time to think about what breeds creativity, in my case at least. Every project I’ve ever worked on, and will probably ever work on in the future, is rooted in the need to solve a problem (visibility, communication, etc.), and every problem has its own unique set of circumstances. Each creative challenge, when you read it through, almost gives away the steps to its solution. I guess when you look at each project as a puzzle, design almost becomes second nature. It’s not work; in fact, sometimes it makes me feel a little guilty that I can charge for it. Finally, I thought about what got me in this industry in the first place. When I’m working (designing, strategizing, conceptualizing), I’m in a place almost completely removed from this world. Nothing around me seems to get through, and it’s just the project and me. It’s almost euphoric; certainly not something I can get tired of. I’m sure it has to be the same with anyone else in the creative space – it’s too good of a gift for only me to experience. Not to be misunderstood, I do hit my fair share of dead ends. Ideas don’t just flow out all the time without a little push. I get writer’s block all the time, although bourbon seems to help. Programming gives me headaches, but I’m fortunate to have some of the best and brightest working with me. On very few occasions I may not be in the mood (at which times I’ll go write some music, brew a batch of beer or write a blog post), but the nagging fear that some day the river of creativity will dry up has finally been put to bed. I hope this article helps anyone else that felt as I did, that one person could only create so much. There’s not a finite amount of creativity in one’s mind – only a limited amount of time to get it all out.
Freebies, download, free, High Resolution, photos
Sun, 27 Jul 2014 07:02:16 +0000
Today I’m releasing the Nature Photo Pack. In the zipped file you will find 25 beautiful stock photos. Use them commercially and personally. These images are perfect for backgrounds, headers, web sites, apps, articles, blogs or presentations. The only limit is your imagination. You’ll find the download link as well as all the included images below. Feel free to share this resource if you found it useful. Also, if it’s not too hard, please link back to our website to show credit. Cheers! What You’ll Get: Zip file with 25 JPEG images Each are over 5000 x 3000px 300 – 350 DPI Important Note: These photos cannot be sublicensed, resold, shared, or transferred.
Freelancing, apps, freelancing, Resources, Tips, Tools
Fri, 25 Jul 2014 05:38:46 +0000
If you don’t already do freelance work, chances are you will within the next few years. Full-time jobs are on the decline. Companies have laid of millions of employees and have no plans to re-hire for those positions. When they need work done, they’ll hire freelancers. This can be both a blessing and a curse for people seeking worse. Freelance opportunities and wages are increasing, so people who seek work can certainly find it. At the same time, it’s difficult to get started. Becoming a freelancer is akin to starting a new business. You need to spend money up front for the proper tools. But how can you spend money that you don’t have? It’s not as though a bank will give you a loan to start a freelance career. (Nor should you ask the bank for money in this situation, but that’s a topic for an entirely different post.) The best solution is to take advantage of the best free tools the web has to offer. Many of these are not your best solution in the long run. But they will provide you with adequate services in the short term. Try these nine free tools to get a jump start on your career without going into debt. Project Management: Workflowy Everyone has a favorite to-do list. The problem: to-do lists don’t work. You feel a sense of accomplishment merely for typing out the list. This sense of satisfaction can decrease your motivation to actually check off the items on the list. Then, later in the day, when you haven’t accomplished anything, you feel a sense of shame. How in the world is this productive? Workflowy is different. It focuses more on project management than on task management, making it a true Getting Things Done tool. Create a project, and then list off all the actions you need to complete the project. You can add in notes, resources, or any other material that might prove helpful. Workflowy uses an outline format with collapsible levels, so you can see as much or as little as you need. Get it: Workflowy. Accounting: FreshBooks Sure, you could keep track of your accounting on a spreadsheet — if you were an amateur. Professional freelancers need professional accounting software. They need professional invoices. They can’t rely on Microsoft Office templates to do the work for them. Of course, professional accounting software can be expensive. Unless you go with FreshBooks. FreshBooks might be the ideal accounting software for newbie freelancers, because you can get it for free. It handles a single client, which is exactly what a newbie freelancer starts with. It even offers a free invoice template, so you can send a professional-looking invoice using your company logo. (You did create a company for your freelancing career and did create a logo, right?) Once you expand your business, plans are far more reasonably priced than competitors. Get it: FreshBooks. Time management: Toggl Dan Baum knows something about freelancing. He’s been doing it for decades, for some of the biggest magazines in the business. What’s his best advice for new freelancers? Understand your nut — how much you earn vs. how much time it takes you to earn it. If a project pays $500, but it takes you 40 hours to complete, you’re underselling your services and destroying your budget. Toggl provides free basic time tracking capabilities, so you know how much time you spend on each project. This can help in a few ways. For starters, it lets you know how much time it takes to complete certain tasks. Second, it can give you the data you need to approach a client and get more money. Finding that a project takes far more time than you estimated? Sell your client on a rate increase. At the very least, you’ll know to increase your rate next time. Once you start making money, you can pay $5 per month to unlock Toggl’s more advanced time tracking features. Get it: Toggle. Finances: Mint Mint and Toggl go hand-in-hand. The money you earn, and the time you take to earn it, determines your budget. But you still have to stay within that budget, lest you go into deep debt. Work outside your budget long enough and you’ll buy yourself a ticket to the poorhouse. To avoid that, working with a budget is necessary. Mint provides the tools you need. At this point Mint is a pretty familiar app. You enter your bank and credit card information into their secure app, and it lets you know your net worth. More, it can track your income and help determine your monthly budgets. Then it tracks your spending in each category, letting you know how much you’ve spent to date. Given how much data Mint can track, it’s amazing the app is still free. Get it: Mint. Producitivity: Strict Workflow The biggest fear of newbie freelancers: that they won’t have the discipline or focus to get the work done. You can sit down at a computer, but what will you do once you get there? The web is made for distractions. Check your email, your Facebook, instant messages, your email again — the cycle can be unbreaking. What many people need is way to block those distractions, eliminating them while they do meaningful work. You use the Chrome browser, right? Then you can take advantage of Strict Workflow, an ingenious plugin that prevents you from viewing distracting material. When you’re ready to do focused work, start a timer. Strict Workflow will block popular distracting sites. You can add to that site list yourself. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can create a whitelist, so you visit only those sites until the timer runs out. Once you start a timer, there is no stopping Strict Workflow. You have no choice but to work. Which is the entire glorious point. Get it: Strict Workflow. Client relations: Insightly It’s easy to see why client relationship management is important for a 10-year freelancing veteran. At that point the freelancer has probably worked with hundreds of clients and has made contact with at least as many more. Those relationships form the lifeblood of the freelancer’s business. A newbie freelancer should view relationships no differently. The newbie might have few relationships, but that makes each one all the more important. Like many of the tools on this list, Insightly starts off as freeware. As your needs (and income) grow, so do Insightly’s features. You can store up to 2,500 records (contacts, projects, organizations, etc.) in the free tier, which is far more than competitors offer. Once you’ve grown your business and have more contacts, you can upgrade to their $7 monthly plan. Get it: Insightly. Content: Google Apps If you don’t already have Microsoft Office on your computer, don’t go look at the sales page. OK, now that you’ve gone and looked at the sales page, I’ll give you a moment to recover. Office is a hugely expensive program that most new freelancers cannot afford. So what do you do? There are options like Open Office, which (poorly) simulate the Word and Excel experiences. Or you can get on a platform that might actually improve on Office. No, you won’t be creating macro-laced spreadsheets with Google Apps, but you can create basic ones. The document creator doesn’t have all the features of MS Word, but it does have all the ones you actually use. Perhaps the greatest benefit of Google Apps is the sharing feature. If your client uses Google Apps, you can easily pass drafts back and forth until you get a great final copy. Even if they don’t, Google Apps makes document creation and editing a breeze. Get it: Google Apps. Photos: Everystockphoto Content creation has expanded beyond mere words. While in the past a magazine might provide pictures for your article, many websites will not. They need you to provide the pictures. How are you going to do that? It’s not as though you can fly to Egypt and snap a photo of the Sahara Desert. If you’re a regular Inspiration Feed reader, you saw the post about 25 free stock photo websites in June. The very first on that list, Everystockphoto, might be the best. You’ll need to pay for very high resolution images, but most websites don’t need those. They need photos no greater than 800px width, which you can download for free. The licensing terms are very generous as well, so you can find great images for use with any kind of freelance work. Get it: Everystockphoto. Photo editing: Pixlr Editor and Inkscape The thing about stock images is that they’re not all that great. Since they’re free, many people use them. A familiar image gets boring after you see it so many times. Touching up those photos, either by making a collage or adding different effects, can make a boring stock image fresh again. Of course, the two most popular image editing tools, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, are massively expensive — more expensive than Microsoft Office by a longshot. There are free alternatives, of course. They don’t have the same feature sets, but they do give you the basic tools you need. Pixlr is a website that is essentially Photoshop Lite. Import images, resize them, crop them, draw on them, add effects, and more. Inkscape is essentially an Illustrator clone, where you can enhance images and create fascinating collages. Both together should replace Photoshop for non-photo-professionals. Get them: Pixlr Editor and Inkscape.